by Janice Krasselt Tatter

Christmas party. Saturday night.
I watch my mother pull the red satin dress
over her head, the white slip beneath
clinging with static. There's already
a run as wide as a finger in her nude-colored hose.

She smoothes on rose rouge in small circles
on her cheeks, applies candy apple lipstick,
blots several times. She reaches for the square
bottle of perfume, a gift from my stepfather
last year that she wears only for church
or after work.

Sometimes I gasp at its heavy fragrance,
a deep, unforgiving decadence, that clouds
the room as she dabs behind each ear
then stretches her neck up to the ceiling,
dousing her slender throat. I cough,
pull away and she laughs.

I fasten her pearl necklace, feel the pearls
as if I'll never see them again. She turns her head
sideways to clip on pearl earrings, then walks
backward from the mirror turning around and around
like a child twirling under stars at night. I smile.
This is my beautiful mother. Tabu. Party dress.

My grandmother smirking in the corner.

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